La Liga 'lacking star player' after Messi's Barcelona exit
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Antoine Griezmann’s return to Atletico Madrid has caused a stir amongst their fanbase and many are unwilling to forgive his departure a few seasons ago. However, the Frenchman’s teammates are tired of the abuse he is receiving and have responded.
Griezmann returned to Atletico after three years away this summer, joining on a one-year loan, which can be extended by a further year, with an obligation for his former club to purchase him for €40 million (£34m) at the end of the loan.
The forward controversially left for Barca in July 2019 after the Catalan club agreed to pay his €120m (£102m) buyout clause.
Griezmann scored 22 league goals in 74 appearances at the Camp Nou outfit, however, his wages meant that he was one of the prioritised outgoings this summer.
Most Atletico fans haven’t forgiven the France international for his departure and are making that known, but his teammate Joao Felix has jumped to the defence of his new strike partner in a heated televised exchange.
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On his way to training on Thursday, Felix was stopped by fans and TV crews. One Atletico supporter stopped the Portugal international in his tracks and told him: “Joao, step on Griezmann, you have to injure him, it can’t be that he starts before you.”
At that very moment, the mood of the interview changed and Felix pointed at the fan and furiously responded: “You should have more respect for Griezmann.”
The 21-year-old then drove off, making it known that the Atletico squad had fully accepted the return of Griezmann.
The 2018/19 World Cup winner has made two appearances for Los Colchoneros since returning, and on both occasions, his announcements were met with jeers, whistles and boos.
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Speaking after the players’ second debut, Atletico president Eduardo Fernandez spoke of the abuse the 30-year-old had been receiving, he said: “A part of the public will whistle and insult him, that’s for sure. When his name is announced and as soon as he touches the ball.
“There is a disenchantment. Before, he was our idol. Now he’s just a player like any other. He doesn’t represent much anymore. His image has seriously deteriorated.
“We’re all still hurt by what he did. Time is going to see our pain heal. He will have to regain our trust and our love.
“It is up to him to be forgiven and to redeem himself. How? ‘Or’ What? By sweating the jersey and scoring. When he sets important goals, little by little things will get back to normal. Because he can once again become the great player he was, I am convinced.”
Griezmann joined Atletico initially in 2014 from boyhood club Real Sociedad for €30 million (£24m) and instantly made his mark at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
In his first campaign at the club, the versatile forward scored 22 goals in 37 league appearances, a tally that he replicated the following season with one extra game.
The 2015/16 La Liga best player scored 113 goals in 257 appearances for Atletico during his first spell at the club and will need to replicate a similar goals-to-game record in order to get supporters back onside.
Diego Simeone will be hoping to guide his side to successive league titles this campaign and the acquisition of a talented, experienced forward will provide the rest of the squad with a major boost both on the pitch and behind the scenes.
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